SIMON MIGNOLET admits there will be a few butterflies before noon on Sunday.
But the Sunderland goalkeeper has total confidence that he will avoid any stage-fright in the Tyne-Wear derby cauldron, as he bids to help the Black Cats to a first victory on enemy turf since 2000.
A deeply hostile atmosphere habitually awaits Sunderland at St James’s Park, yet this season there is extra pressure on Paolo Di Canio’s side.
Defeat for Sunderland would represent a major blow to their hopes of Premier League survival, with only goal difference separating the Black Cats from third bottom Wigan, who face an FA Cup semi-final against Millwall tomorrow.
But Mignolet says the magnitude of the occasion will be put to one side once the game gets underway.
The Belgian told the Echo: “A portion of nerves is healthy.
“There’s always nerves before every single game and if you don’t have that, then you’re not really focused on it.
“But I don’t think you can go into a game stressed. If you do, then that’s going to affect your performance.
“I’ve never gone into a game where I was worried about my own performance, thinking ‘oh my God what’s going to happen now’.
“That’s not good preparation.
“Just before kick-off, obviously the atmosphere gets to you a bit, but once it starts, you focus and don’t really hear what’s thrown at you!”
Mignolet was on the verge of being the derby hero for Sunderland in last season’s corresponding fixture after preserving the 10-man Black Cats’ lead when he saved Demba Ba’s 82nd minute spot-kick.
But derby nemesis Shola Ameobi rescued a point for the Magpies in the last minute, albeit Mignolet begrudgingly concedes a draw was a fair result.
With both teams much-changed and Sunderland boasting a new man in the dug-out this time around though, Mignolet isn’t reading too much into last season’s outcome.
“Last year, the 1-1 at Newcastle was a decent result,” added the 24-year-old.
“But when you save a penalty in the 82nd minute and then concede in the last minute, it’s disappointing.
“In the second half, we were under a bit of pressure. But then when I saw the game back, I think 1-1 was a fair enough result.
“Sunday will be a totally different game again. There’s a lot of changes throughout the two teams.
“Anything can happen, we just have to make sure every player puts the performance in that he wants to.
“Add to that the technical abilities of our new manager, then we can get the three points.”